What To Do If You Hit a Deer and How to Possibly Avoid It - NYCM Insurance Blog

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Oct 29, 2018

What To Do If You Hit a Deer and How to Possibly Avoid It




Imagine, you’re driving home as the sun is setting, listening to some music, minding your own business. Suddenly a deer appears at the worst possible bend in the road. You slam on your brakes, honk your horn, and flash your lights trying to get this animal to move, all the while wondering why the middle of the road seems to be a deer’s favorite place to hang out. 

If you’ve ever been through that  experience, you’re not alone. The Insurance Information Institute (III) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) estimate that there are more than 1.5 million  deer-vehicle collisions each year, resulting in 150 occupant deaths, over tens of thousands of injuries and more than $ 1 billion in vehicle damage.

With an abundance of deer in New York State, and over 65,000 annual deer-vehicle collisions, what are some strategies drivers can use to avoid this kind of collision?

Know What to Look For

Deer are most active around dusk and dawn, which is often when visibility isn’t at its peak. If you are driving during these hours, keep a watchful eye. This is especially true during  hunting season (October-December). During those months, deer are on the move more frequently and are more likely to be seen out in the open.

In places where deer are known to be particularly active, road signs will often be placed to alert drivers to use extra caution. If you see a yellow sign featuring a deer, it’s a warning that there is a significant deer population in the area, and to be extra careful.  Your risk of hitting a deer is higher, so adjust your speed accordingly.

Drive Smart

If you’re driving at night, use your high beams when you can. You should reduce them when another car is headed toward you, but high beams can be helpful. They will increase your ability to see more of your surroundings and spot deer more easily.

On roads with multiple lanes, try to stay in the middle lane. The center lane is always the safest option for avoiding a run-in with a deer. The middle lane provides more space for the deer if they happen to be on the side of the road, and it will also give you more time to react if one runs into the road.

Don’t speed. This is always a good rule and it’s the law. In the dark, in deer territory, speeding is especially dangerous.  Speed limits are set for a reason, and safety is chief among them.

Always wear your seat belt. This is a best practice, and in NY it’s is illegal not to wear one in the front seat. Using a seat belt won’t prevent you from hitting a deer but if you do, you’ll want to be safely strapped in.

What to Do if You See a Deer

If you see one deer, know that there are likely others nearby. Deer are herd animals, so the presence of one usually means there are more around and you should keep an eye out.

Slow down if you see a deer on the side of the road, or stop if it is in the road. You will want to brake firmly while staying in your lane.

If the animal doesn’t move, honk your horn and flash your lights at it. One long beep should startle it off the road. Don’t rely on hood whistles, deer fences, reflectors or other gimmicky devices, instead practice vigilance and proactive safety procedures.

Lastly, stay calm, and don’t swerve if a deer is in the road. Swerving is often what causes a driver to lose control of their vehicle, and the results can be serious (hitting another car, tree, pole or guardrail).

Know What to Do if You Have a Deer Collision

Pull over to the side of the road as soon as it is possible and safe. After you’re parked/pulled over, turn on your hazard lights to alert any other drivers that there is a hazard ahead and stay inside of your vehicle until it is safe to get out.

Stay away from the deer. You may be tempted to go see if it is alive or okay, but if it is alive it is probably hurt, scared, confused and panicked (which could be very dangerous for you to be near).

Call 911 to report the accident and call your insurance company to file the claim. Make sure to let authorities know if the deer is still in the road so that a professional can move it. Wait for the police and/or animal control to arrive so that you can recount the events.

If it is safe, take pictures of the damages to your car, your surroundings, and the road for your insurance company.

Lastly, never assume your car is safe to drive after an accident. Check for any signs that something is amiss. This could include fluid leaking out of your vehicle, loose-looking parts, broken lights or any other issues that could be a hazard while driving home. If you think there’s any sort of damage, be safe and call a tow service, even if you don’t have a roadside assistance program. Safety is worth the expense.

A collision with a deer can result in thousands of dollars of damage, or worse. So stay safe, stay alert, and always be prepared.



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